20 years ago today my Daddy went home to be with Jesus. He was born Billy Ray in 1956 to a very poor family. Daddy grew up living in tents in national parks around the US. His father was a sever alcoholic and the entire family reaped his abuse.
Dad's very first pair of shoes were given to him by his teacher. After several weeks of coming to school bare foot the teacher felt moved to buy Dad a pair of shoes. Dad often told me about that teacher.
Dad grew and had many challenges and burdens in his life. He was born a juvenile diabetic and dealt with sickness his whole life.
Dad met my Mom when he was just 18 and she was 25 and already the mother of 2. I was 18 months old when Dad and Mom got together. Dad never had a proper example of how a father should act so he did his best. He made mistakes but he sincerely tried to be a good father.
Dad had developed some very bad habits and had an addiction to drugs. He used drugs as one would cigarettes but I never thought anything about it, this was normal for our family.
When Dad was 32 he developed sores on one of his feet, the end result being amputation. After 5 hard years Dad had lost both feet and was now diagnosed with a systemic bone disease brought on by the diabetes and drug use.
Dad lived a very hard and painful life and through it all he had no one to lean on or turn to. Dad didn't know Jesus and didn't know how wonderful His comfort could be.
At 17 I moved out of our troubled home and into the home of my husband's family. The laws were laid out in the beginning; what was allowed and what wasn't. For the first time in my life I realized that my family wasn't normal. Families actually ate together, went to church together and talked sweetly to one another. Life was totally different in his family.
Just after I turned 18 Johnny and I were married. A month before the wedding Dad had a stroke and was paralyzed on his right side. He was very worried about walking me down the isle, and pleaded that he didn't have to. Despite the wheel chair, Dad did walk me down the isle. It was wonderful holding Dad's hand as Mom pushed his wheel chair down the isle.
A few years later Johnny was preaching and I had begged Dad to come. He had been in church once in his life and that was for our wedding. He said a few choice words and then informed me that he wouldn't be coming to the church, not today, or ever. Imagine my surprise and elation when the back door opened just after the congregation began singing it's first hymn.
My Dad, my Dad had come. I had been praying for years for his salvation and here he was. I sat in the pew the entire time praying and begging God to save my Daddy. As Johnny concluded his sermon and began the invitation my heart yearned for Daddy, I begged God and then it happened; Dad got up on his prostheses and hobbled down the isle. I almost stood on my pew and clapped when Dad bowed his head and asked King Jesus to save him. Dad was never the same.
When I was pregnant with our second son Dad began to develop sores on his fingers. As the months passed he lost one finger after the other. Dad was now a man with no legs and the possibility of loosing his ability to use hands.
Within the next several months we spent many a night at the hospital with Dad. He wasn't every going to get better and there was nothing anyone could do. I began praying that God would take him, he was already living the worst nightmare possible. I asked Dad often if he was sure he would go to heaven if he died and his answer was always the same, " Yes Sister, I would." My worry was eased and I begged God to take him home and end this misery.
Sitting in my mother-in-law's living room the call came and I knew this was it. Dad had been taken to the hospital and was not expected to live. We rushed to the hospital and I knew Dad wouldn't be going home. I sat on the side of Dad's bed and held his hand. Near the end he lost his eye sight and eventually fell into a deep sleep. I held his hand until his heart beat for the last time. He had such a serene look on his face and I knew he was with Jesus.
My Dad wasn't the best father and he didn't instill the wisest insight but he was Daddy and I think my Heavenly Father for every moment he let me spend with my Daddy.